Moorpark College Professor Charged in Death of Jewish Protester
Ventura County prosecutors have filed involuntary manslaughter and battery charges against a Moorpark College professor in connection with the Nov. 5 death of Jewish protester Paul Kessler.
Kessler, 69, died from injuries he sustained at a Free Palestine rally, where he was counter-protesting in support of Israel.
Kessler was engaged in a confrontation with Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, when he fell backward and hit his head on the cement. An autopsy determined that Kessler died from blunt force trauma as a result of the fall. The death was ruled a homicide, with the medical examiner determining it “occurred at the hands of another person or the actions of another person contributed to the death of a person.” In addition to the fatal injury, Kessler had received injuries to his face, consistent with being hit.
Initially, it was not clear whether anyone would be charged in connection with Kessler’s death.
“We were not pre-committed to any specific outcome or even criminal culpability, and we never treated the fact that criminal charges would be a forgone conclusion,” said Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko.
The decision to file criminal charges, Nasarenko added, was based on a review of more than 600 pieces of evidence and interviews with over 60 witnesses. The involuntary manslaughter charges denote criminal negligence, but not necessarily intent, in the lead-up to Kessler’s death.
Alnaji is a professor of computer science at Moorpark College, which is part of the Ventura Community College District (VCCD). He was born in Kuwait. According to the college, he has been placed on administrative leave.
“Necessary protocols have been taken to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff, which will remain our top priority,” the district said. “VCCD has been in communication with law enforcement throughout this process.”
Alnaji pleaded not guilty to the charges on Friday. His attorney says video footage from the rally will prove his client’s innocence.
The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office says it has not yet ruled out hate crime charges.